Now that things have pretty well wound down for Maine skiing, with perhaps another week or more of great cover and soft spring corn accessible by lift in the mountains of Franklin County, many of us turn our thoughts to those special stashes that we’ve cataloged over the years that we can skin up to in order to extend the season well into May.

Usually those secret spots are reserved for the far north and the western mountains. But with this year’s unusual weather patterns that saw the coast getting larger dumps out of several storms than the traditionally snowier regions, there’s even accessible and well-covered terrain on Ragged Mountain in the Camden Hills, not to mention the secluded old Slope Trail on the northeast side of Mt. Megunticook. This could last a couple more weeks.

Then, of course, come late May, it’s Tuckerman or, for some of us senior wimps, a drive to the summit of Mt. Washington to tackle the East Snowfields.

Once we’ve hung ’em up for good, come June, it’s time to think about passing the time until November, and perhaps more importantly, staying in skiing shape so we’ll be ready come the first snow … or the firing up of the guns.

Let me suggest a perfect way to both condition ourselves for next season and maintain our strong emotional connection to skiing: Plan hikes not only up to the summit of still operating ski areas, but also on Maine’s nearly 80 “lost ski areas.”

Not only will you be able to check out what your favorite areas might be doing in terms of changes, but you can take a literal walk back in time and listen to the murmurings of the ghosts of skiers past among the birches that have grown up to fill old lift lines and trails.

There are still visible remnants of the heyday of ski area development on many abandoned hills, like tower foundations and the slabs on which base lodges and warming huts once stood.

Take Coburn Mountain, south of Jackman. It’s a great hike up to its 3,718-foot summit, and you’ll spot evidence of a short-lived 1970s experiment called Enchanted Mountain to attempt to attract skiers up to that somewhat remote corner of Maine. Foundations for the chairlift can be spotted, and although the trails are overgrown, the trees clearly reveals their outlines.

A couple other strolls back into Maine’s skiing history are on two relatively but wonderfully rewarding hikes up mountains bearing the same name: Bald. As an aside, a few years ago I crossed off my bucket list a day in which I started before dawn up Bald Mountain in Oquossoc, headed next down to Bald Mountain in Weld, then sped east to tackle Bald Mountain down in the Camden Hills, and finally ended on Bald Rock in Lincolnville.

Bald Mountain in Oquossoc is a 2,443-foot hill on which a T-bar operated in the 1960s, and an ascent of only a thousand vertical feet or more in less than an hour will get you to a fabulous view point, complete with an observation platform. Just follow Route 16 until it ends at Haines Landing on the east shore of Lake Mooselookmeguntic.

Bald Mountain in Dedham, also once the site of a bustling little area complete with a T-bar and chairlift, is a nice hike up to its 1,234-foot summit with an old fire tower overlooking Phillips Lake (now known as Lucerne-in-Maine). You’ll find it off Route 1A about nine miles east of Bangor.

For a couple other hikes up long-lost ski trails, consider Mt. Agamenticus in York and Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield.

My favorite hikes up still-operating ski areas are, of course, Timberline to the top of Sugarloaf, and Saddleback, either right up from the base lodge, or for a longer but delightful day-long trip, head up from the Sandy River Ponds Appalachian Trail crossing on Route 16 below Rangeley. Bear in mind that’ll be a round-trip hike of close to 15 miles if you go all the way to The Horn, and includes a 2,750-foot elevation gain.

Throw in Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton, Ragged Mountain in Camden and Big Squaw in Greenville, and you’ll end up with some dynamite summertime exercise … close to memories of your favorite winter sport.

John Christie is a former ski racer and ski area manager and owner, a ski historian and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. He and his son, Josh, write columns on alternating weeks. He can be reached at:

[email protected]


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